Colorado - Alternatives to Exclusionary Discipline: Programs and Services

Programs And Services
Policy Type: 

State law requires districts to use alternatives to out-of-school suspension or expulsion, such as, in-school suspension, behavioral interventions, or restorative practices.

C.R.S. 22-32-144. Restorative justice practices - legislative declaration

(1) The general assembly hereby finds that:

  • (a) Conflicts and offenses arising during the school day interrupt learning, threaten school safety, and often lead to suspensions, expulsions, and an increase in the likelihood of a student dropping out of school;
  • (b) Students who drop out of high school face diminished job opportunities, lower lifetime earnings, and increased unemployment and more often require public assistance. They are more likely to participate in criminal activity, resulting in higher incarceration rates, and they face much greater challenges to becoming productive, contributing members of their communities.
  • (c) School conflicts can result in offenses that violate school rules and local laws and damage relationships among members of the school and surrounding community;
  • (d) Restorative justice, which requires the offender to accept responsibility and accountability for his or her actions, teaches conflict resolution, repairs the harm from the offense, reduces classroom disruptions, suspensions, expulsions, and consequent dropouts, promotes school safety, and enables victims, offenders, and community members to rebuild the community and restore relationships; and
  • (e) The general assembly has a vital interest in reducing classroom disruptions, suspensions, expulsions, and dropout rates and in assisting victims, reducing referrals to the justice system, and building safer, more cohesive school communities to promote learning.

(2) (a) Therefore, the general assembly supports and encourages the use of restorative justice as a school's first consideration to remediate offenses such as interpersonal conflicts, bullying, verbal and physical conflicts, theft, damage to property, class disruption, harassment and internet harassment, and attendance issues.

  • (b) The general assembly encourages each school district to implement training and education in the principles and practices of restorative justice to ensure that capable personnel and resources are available to successfully facilitate all steps of the restorative justice process.

(3) For purposes of this section, "restorative justice" means practices that emphasize repairing the harm to the victim and the school community caused by a student's misconduct. Restorative justice practices may include victim-initiated victim-offender conferences attended voluntarily by the victim, a victim advocate, the offender, school members, and supporters of the victim and the offender, which program provides an opportunity for the offender to accept responsibility for the harm caused to those affected by the act and to participate in setting consequences to repair the harm. Consequences recommended by the participants may include, but need not be limited to, apologies, community service, restitution, restoration, and counseling. The selected consequences shall be incorporated into an agreement that sets time limits for completion of the consequences and is signed by all participants.

(4) Each school district is encouraged to develop and utilize restorative justice practices that are part of the disciplinary program of each school in the district.

C.R.S. 22-33-202. Identification of at-risk students

(1) Each school district shall adopt policies to identify students who are at risk of suspension or expulsion from school. Students identified may include those who are truant, who have been or are likely to be declared habitually truant, or who are likely to be declared habitually disruptive. The school district shall provide students who are identified as at risk of suspension or expulsion with a plan to provide the necessary support services to help them avoid expulsion. The school district shall work with the student's parent or guardian in providing the services and may provide the services through agreements with appropriate local governmental agencies, appropriate state agencies, community-based organizations, and institutions of higher education entered into pursuant to section 22-33-204. The failure of the school district to identify a student for participation in an expulsion-prevention program or the failure of such program to remediate a student's behavior shall not be grounds to prevent school personnel from proceeding with appropriate disciplinary measures or used in any way as a defense in an expulsion proceeding.

(2) Each school district may provide educational services to students who are identified as at risk of suspension or expulsion from school. Any school district that provides educational services to students who are at risk of suspension or expulsion may apply for moneys through the expelled and at-risk student services grant program established in section 22-33-205 to assist in providing such educational services.

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